In 1917, Frederick Lehman, a California businessman beset by financial setbacks, wrote the lyrics to the hymn, “The Love of God.” His inspiration led him quickly to pen the first two stanzas, but he got stuck on the third. He recalled a poem that had been discovered years earlier, written on the walls of a prison. No one knows the prisoner who scratched it there into the stone, but it expressed a deep awareness of God’s love. The poem happened to be in the same meter as Lehman’s hymn. He made it his third stanza.
There are times when we face difficult setbacks as did Lehman and the unknown poet in the prison cell. In times of despair, we do well to echo the psalmist David’s words and “take refuge in the shadow of [God’s] wings” (Psalm 57:1). It’s okay to “cry out to God” with our troubles, to speak to Him of our current ordeal and the fears we have when “in the midst of lions” (v. 4). We’re soon reminded of the reality of God’s provision in times past, and join David who says, “I will sing and make music. . . . I will awaken the dawn” (vv. 7–8).
“The love of God is greater far,” this hymn proclaims, adding “it goes beyond the highest star.” It’s precisely in our time of greatest need when we’re to embrace how great God’s love really is—indeed “reaching to the heavens” (v. 10).